Enter the fascinating world of Shane Cooper, who reimagines old books from the dust of history into new life as works of art. See more of his portfolio on his website.
My work is an expression of how life happens. I take old valueless books that once were used for reference, then seal them with neutral pH adhesive designed for bookmaking. Like life, I dive into the unknown, searching for imagery, phrases, or diagrams that I find interesting.
Many aspects, like our daily journey into a career, family, or society, result in frustration or happiness. There are many times I work through the depths with anticipation, only to be frustrated, or work with what I find. Often, the results are a joy as I discover something unique, unexpected, or beautiful.
Like the span of my past career, working with sealed books with a general subject but unknown expectations has results that often present themselves as happy accidents. As I started my journey in life, rudderless and without direction, I created new projects similarly. I’m not fully aware of what I’ll find. The journey of discovery is as much of the enjoyment in this medium as the results.
Most of the final pieces culminate in discovery, frustration, and delight. With unbound time comes freedom, which is now more expressed in my work. Most of my earlier work was focused on discovery rather than pushing past the initial imagery.
Like a graduate accepting their first position, job, or assignment, timid exploration can create boundaries until one discovers one’s potential. As I’ve worked on hundreds of projects, I will probe deeper into the work to add more depth to the final piece. If something isn’t working, I have discovered the freedom to punch through.
Working with various scalpels, I begin with a basic idea of shape and form. Then through the discovery process, the work takes on a unique shape that morphs as images are revealed. I do not add or move any picture, phrase, diagram, or blank space; I leave everything in its original printed placement as the publisher intended.
My formative years did not include Google (a far-off futuristic concept no one had considered, like the internet.) Instead of access to such wonders we now take for granted, I was bound by reference books for research. Encyclopedias have a nostalgic draw as they’re all but forgotten now, typically stored in boxes gathering dust. Even outdated reference books or damaged books get very little love and are either discarded into recycle bins, thrown out, filling up landfills, or placed in some back room with no chance of ever seeing the light of day.
I revive lost, forgotten, damaged, or unusable books, giving them new life and transforming each one into something interesting, thought-provoking, and beautiful. Instead of collecting dust in an attic, basement, or storage closet, they reveal a new purpose, intent, and usefulness.
Each work of art I create is bespoke and unique. No two are alike in subject, expression, or discovery method. My technique involves sealing with discovery using scalpels, cutting into each piece page by page, and sliver by sliver. I work tirelessly until I’m satisfied with a three-dimensional expression that speaks to the world.
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